Sometimes all it takes is a margarita. In this case it took three.
The first one was with my family last Friday. Scott had taken the day off and it was a gorgeous Spring day. We did some errands, spent some time at the park, and found ourselves lunching at Pasqual’s, a restaurant in our neighborhood with a huge outdoor deck. They were serving special grapefruity margaritas for Cinco de Mayo. Alzette enjoyed a taco and Luna slept through most of the meal. Sure the deck overlooks a parking lot, but when it’s nice out and you’re drinking a margarita and from where you’re sitting you can see the yellow slide at the local nursery where your daughter sometimes plays, it’s hard to notice. These are the moments I live for: relaxing, eating, appreciating the people who matter most to me.
The next day we took a mini-road trip to La Crosse to meet up with my sister and her family. Her baby is only one month younger than mine, and I finally met her at 8 months. We had tried to visit each other prior to this, but when you live 6+ hours apart, if one or both babies get sick you have to cancel travel plans. We finally had a chance to meet somewhere between our two cities and had a great day – we visited the local co-op, had a picnic lunch, strolled along the river, and checked out the toy store at the La Crosse children’s museum. We live in Madison, a pretty affordable city, but it’s nice to be reminded that there are other communities with equally fun things to do at an even lower price tag.
Finding lots of other moms to talk to makes a big difference in meeting the demands of mothering. This is because every child is different, and parenting presents so many different types of challenges and unexpected scenarios and every parent has a slightly different approach to handling them. So talking to as many parents as you can helps you figure out how you want to approach things. Most importantly it helps you stay sane knowing that you’re not alone in sometimes feeling confused, frustrated, anxious, or sad. My sister has been a mother for 8 months and we’ve already shared a lot of important moments – some filled with tears, but most filled with laughter – bonding over how unexpected, difficult, joyous, nerve-wracking, and beautiful motherhood is. In fact on Saturday as we all sat on a picnic blanket, me with my family and she with hers, she chuckled and said “Well, I never could have predicted this moment.” We all burst into laughter, it seemed to perfectly summarize everything about our lives.
My extremely adorable niece shares a special moment with her cousin.
It was so nice to see my niece’s mom and dad in action: they work so well as a team and seem to be truly enjoying the ride of being parents together. Later that evening as we grabbed a quick dinner at a local wine bar, my sister and I shared a margarita. It was a fun but hectic dinner, I think she and I each had only a few sips. Sometimes when you’re on the road at the end of a fun-filled day, facing a night of driving with a baby, a few sips is all you need.
Then came Mother’s Day. I slept the entire morning. It wasn’t the morning I had planned, but it had been a long couple of days and I was beat. I stayed in bed until noon while Scott watched the kids. I woke up and said: “I only have one goal for the day: that we get the garden tilled and ready for planting.” It was another beautiful Spring day. Scott and I took turns weeding, tilling, holding the baby, and digging out compost. Ok so I didn’t even take a shower that day, and I didn’t go out for brunch or hit the spa (from previous Mother’s Day posts you know where this is all going…), but I had a great weekend with family and spent a lot of time outside and at the end of the day we had a nice strip of fertile soil in a sunny part of the yard where every year we try to grow vegetables. I was satisfied.
Then my best friend showed up with margaritas.
Last July my best girlfriend moved from Washington, D.C., to just one block away from me. This has pretty much changed everything. My friend works part time from home, and her daughter is one and a half. To describe fully what it means to live one block from your best friend and also become a mother with her is subject for another post. But the daily perks are obvious: the two of us and our girls hang out regularly – going to the library and play groups, taking walks to the park, or just making each other lunch at our homes. Between her house and mine is just a backyard: that of my friend and neighbor whose daughter is Alzette’s peer and playmate. This mom and I often take turns watching each others kids. If this all seems like a dream it’s because it is.
So this Mother’s Day, my best friend and her family showed up on our deck with margarita ingredients to celebrate the day. The kids played and snacked, the parents talked and drank. Later my neighbor arrived home from a barbecue with her family. So then we had more kids laughing, dads chatting, and the night ended with three tipsy moms standing on the sidewalk bonding over Mother’s Day and life.
We circled around one topic: being real. We talked about how there are some moms who seem to only want to paint a rosy picture of life as a mom, and some who love being a mom but also appreciate that not everything about it is easy and are able to talk freely about both the beauty and the hardship. It’s from those moms that we learn the most. We don’t need someone to tell us how much we’re going to love our kids, or how joyous we’ll feel when we see them happy (although sometimes on a bad day it helps to be reminded of these moments), and we definitely don’t need to be told (for the thousandth time) how quickly it all goes by. We know all that, or at least we’re about to learn it really easily.
When you’re a new parent you need someone to warn you that children will bring out the best in you, but also the worst, and so be ready to face that part of yourself. We need someone to break down for us what parenting is really all about. An obvious source would be our own parents, but they find it difficult to be real – I think – because they don’t want us to interpret their difficulties as meaning they love us any less. But parents could tell other young parents about it! And our peer groups should do the same. For example, I remember when I was pregnant the first time I really didn’t understand why having children would be so tiring (yes I realize this is laughable now). Once my baby was born, I wish someone had written down in more plain terms the practical realities of why it is such an energy-sapping experience. (I try to share these kind of realities in some of my posts, such as this one.)
Recently one of my favorite blogs, The Ugly Volvo, posted a piece about the realities of pregnancy and how it’s not always a pleasant experience, and how sometimes a mother can feel pressure to speak more positively about her pregnancy than she actually feels. As the post points out, not being thrilled about pregnancy doesn’t mean you love your children any less (in fact I would mischievously offer that if you’re willing to go through a difficult pregnancy for them then perhaps you love your children more!), and so it shouldn’t be something you hide. When we’re going through a painful or difficult experience sometimes the only comfort we find is in knowing that someone else shares our experience. Only if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to share can we bring comfort to others and therefore ourselves.
We may not be able to divulge everything on a blog post (after all, there are children and relationships with partners to consider), but if you’re talking to your sister, your friend, or anyone else who won’t judge you, it’s important that we be as real as possible when it comes to parenting. If there’s a phrase I have said or heard repeated by many parents it’s, “I wish I had known…” Some things about parenting you really can’t fully comprehend until it’s happening. But if we’re real about the crazy unexpected challenges that come with pregnancy, child birth, breast feeding, sleep training, diapers, and all the other aspects of having kids, then the next parent will be that much closer to being emotionally prepared to raise an awesome human being.